Soldiers burst into labor union headquarters


A group of five soldiers driving a vehicle with official license plates recently stormed into the headquarters of the Izábal Banana Workers’ Union (SITRABI). Showing no identification or court order, they interrogated the workers present as to the activities of the union and who their members and leaders were. SITRABI filed the corresponding report. Sirel spoke about the incident with Noé Ramírez, general secretary of SITRABI.



-Could you tell us exactly what happened?

-A little after noon, five uniformed soldiers burst unexpectedly into the union’s headquarters and immediately started asking a number of questions, like who the president was, what the names of the leaders were, how many workers were members of the union, and so on. The workers asked to see their warrant or some documentation that would identify the soldiers, but they replied that the Army’s “strategy” in such cases was to act without identifying themselves. One of them, whose cap had the last name Moscoso written on it, announced that they were conducting an intelligence operation ordered by Military Staff, in coordination with National Civil Police. They also said that they were performing a general control of all social organizations, with the aim of “reducing crime.”


-Were you able to see anything that could identify them?

-We saw that they were driving a truck with the official license plate number “O 174BBF,” and the inscription “Second Brigade 004” written on the back.


-What do you think motivated this raid, and how did you react?

-We think it’s an attempt to intimidate us and attack our union work. Our reaction was to report this attack to the Special Human Rights Prosecutor of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and to human rights organizations in Guatemala. We had to face and overcome the initial resistance of the Public Prosecution Office, which first refused to receive our complaint, arguing that we couldn’t prove that they were really soldiers, as it could also have been civilians disguised as military. Now we’ve ratified and expanded the report filed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, with a complaint filed with the Special Unit for Crimes against Unionists and Journalists. We also met with the Minister of Labor who arranged for us to meet with the National Defense Minister. We hope that at that meeting we are given a proper explanation. 


Carlos Amorín, from Montevideo

© Rel-UITA

September 11, 2007






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